Last season's ITM Cup Championship winners Counties Manukau will open the 2013 ITM Cup competition against the Wellington Lions when the new season gets under way on Thursday 15 August.
The match - at Pukekohe's ECOLight Stadium - is the very first of seven matches in Week One of the nine-week 2013 season draw released by New Zealand Rugby in March.
The first week of competition will see the 2012 ITM Cup Premiership Champions Canterbury take on Taranaki while the Hawke's Bay Magpies host provincial neighbours the Manawatu Turbos as they play for the Kel Tremain Memorial trophy.
In the South Island, the Southland Stags host the Tasman Makos, and the season's first Ranfurly Shield challenge will see the Northland Taniwha have the first tilt at wrestling 'the Log o' Wood' off the summer guardians, the Waikato Mooloos.
The first week's action closes out with the traditional Battle of the Bridge between Auckland and North Harbour with the two Auckland based teams playing for the Brian Purdy Memorial Trophy and the Newstalk ZB Trans Harbour Trophy followed by Otago taking on Bay of Plenty in Dunedin.
While Waikato retained their hold on the Shield against Northland in week 1 they lost is against Otago in week 2, the first time Otago has held the Shield in 56 years! Otago's first defense is against Hawke's Bay on 1 September.
Week 4 sees a celebration of grass roots rugby with Manawatu hosting the New Zealand Secondary Schools Girls 1st XV Rugby Final which will be played as a curtain raiser to the Turbos’ match against North Harbour on Sunday 8 September at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.
The ITM Cup Championship Final - the promotion and relegation decider - will be played on Friday 25 October. The ITM Cup Premiership Final will be played on Saturday 26 October, immediately after the 2013 Women’s Provincial Championship Final.